Taino Religion: Legends, Gods & Creation Myth

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  • 0:04 Taino Religion at a Glance
  • 0:56 Taino Gods and Goddesses
  • 2:41 Taino Creation Story
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Emily Teater

Emily currently is a substitute teacher, and has taught a variety of K-12 courses. She has a master's degree in Mythological Studies.

In this lesson, you'll explore some of the myths and symbols associated with the gods and goddesses of the Taino people of the Caribbean Islands. You'll also see how these gods and goddesses relate to each other in the myth of creation.

Taino Religion at a Glance

The Taino were the pre-Columbian civilization in the Bahamas and were among some of the first people Columbus met upon first arriving in the Americas. Unfortunately, they were also one of the first to be almost completely wiped out by European settlers. Between diseases brought by the Spanish and being forced into slave labor by settlers, the Taino culture all but disappeared. They were able to somewhat survive in Puerto Rico, but by then had mixed with a great many other cultures that had been driven from their homelands.

The Taino word for gods were zemi. These zemi were the various gods, goddesses, spirits, and ancestors they worshiped. Zemi was also the name given to the wooden or stone effigies of these gods. These gods and goddesses are still being researched today, and only little bits of information have been confirmed, but there are several gods that we do have a decent amount of information about.

Taino Gods and Goddesses

Many of the Taino gods are still being uncovered, but we do know about a handful of major deities.

Atabey: Considered the most supreme of the gods, the goddess Atabey is important because she is the mother of gods and the initial creator. In fact, she even gave birth to her self, making her one of the more powerful of creation gods in mythic study. She was also the goddess of music, fertility, and beauty. She was depicted as a frog-like figure who is, more often than not, in the birthing position, to symbolize her importance as mother of all.

Guabancex: Goddess of storms and the destruction they bring, Guabancex actually has a lasting legacy in English culture. She was often accompanied by two twin entities who announced her arrival: thunder and wind. Together with them, they created the juracan, a word the Spanish settlers would later translate to huracan, which is more well-known to us as a hurricane. Due to the violent and destructive aftermath of hurricanes, Guabancex was often portrayed as having a very volatile temper.

Yocahu: Yocahu is the leading god of the Taino people. He is the son of Atabey and god of the sea. However, like most gods who lead a people, Yocahu lives in the sky to keep watch over the Taino people. He is also considered a god of fertility as well and was associated with the Taino's main crop, the root known as cassava. Farmers would bury statues of Yocahu to bless their fields in the hopes of assuring good crops.

Some minor gods and goddesses helped fill out the pantheon.

Baibrama was an assistant god to Yocahu who helped with the planting of cassava. He was also a healing god who would cure people of poisoning from cassava. Boinayel and Márohu were the twin gods of the gentle rains to grow healthy crops. Finally, there was Maketaori Guayaba, the god of the underworld.

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